Notre Dame: One Year On

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Last week marked the anniversary of the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which caused up to €600 million in damages and destroyed the iconic spire of the French landmark. As the world has, largely, been put on hold amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we have the opportunity to reflect on the events that occurred one year ago and the actions that have been taken since. 

This time last year, I was writing an article about the event that unfolded at Notre Dame, and the money pledged to help the Cathedral recover from it. At around 18:20 on 15th April 2019, a fire started just beneath the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral, with flames rapidly engulfing the edifice and not being completely put out until 15 hours after it was thought to have started. The world held its breath as the fire destroyed the roof and spire of the Cathedral, but shock was also caused by the amount of money pledged to the Cathedral restoration fund. As highlighted in my previous article, the issue lay not with how individuals, be they celebrities or not, decided to donate, but with the vast funds that the local government was donating towards the planned recovery of the Cathedral, despite economic tensions and unrest in Paris, as well as across France. 

While Paris continues to be scarred by what has happened to its iconic Cathedral, the ruins have actually led to something more positive, in the form of new research opportunities. For example, through the use of radiocarbon dating, scientists have been able to explore the origins of the Cathedral to a greater extent than ever before. Something that we should all bear in mind in our current times; out of all bad things can come something good.

The Cathedral held its first public service since the fire on Good Friday, which was broadcast live, with a handful of celebrants. As can be expected, restorations and the Cathedral’s recovery process had been put on hold amidst the current global pandemic. 

For the first time since the fire, the main bell of Notre Dame rang out on Wednesday 15th April, at the approximate time that the blaze began, which also happened to coincide with France’s nationwide clap for health workers. France’s nod to the tragedy they faced last year fused with the tragedy that France, and indeed all of us, are currently facing. 

When I first wrote my article on Notre Dame fire last year, and in the days that followed the event as the true scale of the destruction and amount of pledged donations started to be known, I always had the intention of writing this article, a year on, seeing the difference that the huge pledges would make. Of course, I was not to know what was coming, and how the coronavirus outbreak would halt Notre Dame’s restoration. As we all try and return to a state of normality after this pandemic, hopefully Notre Dame can get back on track to returning to hers. 

Louisa Polack

Image Credit: Smithsonian Magazine